Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 and 6) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants after His resurrection.
The passages below show the words from verses 1 through 4 of the King James version of Matthew 6 and the comparable verses from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
“Verily, verily I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.” (3 Nephi 13:1-4)
-How does seeking the public approval of other mortals, when helping those in need, poison the spiritual well, so to speak?
Those who led the congregations of Christ’s people among the Nephites were not paid monetarily or with physical goods for their service. Rather, they supported themselves and their own families, and then also labored to serve the Lord and His people. This separation of financial incentive from spiritual service increased the grace and Spirit of God in their lives and they were able to teach with greater power and authority for the benefit of their followers.
“…The priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.” (Mosiah 18:26)
-Can you see how mixing financial incentive and church (or synagogue) service could easily dilute the spiritual power of those who lead congregations?
-How many are willing (or able) to serve for the grace of God and forgo financial reimbursement for their service?
King Benjamin teaches the importance of service to others but cautions against trying to do more than one is capable of. Ordering one’s life, in accordance with God’s commandments, will allow one to provide greater service.
“…For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” (Mosiah 4:26-27)
-How is serving others related to retaining a remission of sins?
-Can we stay close to Christ and His atoning power if we are not following His example in how we treat others?
A second time, during his sermon to the Nephite people, King Benjamin teaches about each individual’s true standing with God.
“…Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are.” (Mosiah 2:34)
-Is it easy for you to wrap your mind around what Benjamin is teaching about each individual’s debt to God? Or, is indebtedness to God a foreign concept for you?
-Is it demeaning to be in a position in indebtedness in relation to Deity? Has God given all He has to us grudgingly? Or, is His giving inspired by perfect and eternal love?
-If joy is tied to connecting with the truth, does Benjamin’s teaching give you insight into why those who are grateful find greater joy in life?
-What does it mean to give all that you have and all that you are to God?
Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:
“How can we ever repay the debt we owe to the Savior? He paid a debt He did not owe to free us from a debt we can never pay. Because of Him, we will live forever. Because of His infinite Atonement, our sins can be swept away, allowing us to experience the greatest of all the gifts of God: eternal life.
“Can such a gift have a price? Can we ever make compensation for such a gift?” (“Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 43).
While teaching the Nephite people, Benjamin, a prophet king, recounts the service-oriented nature of his reign and the relationship between serving others and serving God.
“I…have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and all of these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day. Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.” (Mosiah 2:14-15)
“Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16-17)
-If God has perfect and abiding love for His children, what better way is there to show love to Him than to serve His children (our fellow beings here on the Earth)?